We shout “amen” when someone suggests we stop trying to look like photoshopped models. We rejoice when companies use “average” size (as if that exists) models. We preach to our daughters to love the way God made them, to be comfortable in their skins, to be true to themselves not the latest fade. Yet, most of us struggle to live the life we tell our daughters to embrace.
Truth be told, if we need a head shot of ourselves we want to photoshop away the imperfections. We try, within the frameworks of our budget, to stay fashionable. And when our age starts to show and grey hairs appear and skin sags and teeth turn yellow, if we can find an affordable way to cover up the signs of aging, we take it. Because, well, our friends do and looking young feels good. And we try to hide our diet binges from our daughters but they hear the words in what we don’t eat anyway.
Knowing that our physical appearance will always be imperfect is one thing. Accepting it is another. Maybe, if we stop covering all our imperfections and share our stories of physical flaws, we might find freedom to just be. Because when we know through story that imperfections abound even in the ones who appear flawless, maybe we can rest in how God made us and be the model for our girls we want to be. Let me share few stories and, if I am brave, a picture or two.
In late high school, my eyelids started drooping. No cause could be found. It embarrassed me because people always thought I was sleepy. Later, second grade boys at the inner city school where I volunteered would ask me, “You high?” Eventually, years later my husband taught me it was not strict vanity to have a lid lifting surgery that the insurance company would pay for. Ten years after that surgery, I had to get a second one. It didn’t work and I am wary of having any more surgery around my eyes. But people speak with their eyes and I hate that people think I am uninterested or tired because of my drooping eye lids. See, my lids hide that lovely green and they really won’t open any farther than this (Eek! I can’t believe I am posting pictures.)
I am a thin 5’6” inches with zero athletic ability because I just never tried. I am blessed with a high metabolism (at least for a few more years). The trouble with us npn-athletic types? Babies stretch our skin, just like anyone else. But it doesn’t go back. My post-baby belly resembles a raisin. Really the wrinkles don’t bother me, and I have no weight I should lose, but I have a wrinkly belly that won’t stay put. Thank goodness I never loved bikinis.
Bug is my youngest. In her second season playing soccer (she was 6 at this point), I joined a circle of familiar moms waiting fro practice to end. One that I had spoken with often last season glanced at me and asked, “When are you due?” I politely said I wasn’t pregnant and then escaped to the car to cry. Clearly I needed some wardrobe adjustments and thousands of sit-ups.
Two years later I took a month-long sub job at a local high school. I wrote several posts about all I learned. What I didn’t write about was how I learned to laugh at my imperfect body from those students. For the first days I could hear the students whispering about me, laughing, wondering. By day three bold students in various classes would ask, “Mrs. Wells, When your baby due?” For the entire month, these bold freshmen would ask the same question. At first I told them it was inappropriate to ask such questions. Eventually I laughed and said no. But they never believed me. That month I had to accept that my stomach was never a rubber band. It had no ability to return to its original shape, with or without sit ups. I couldn’t let those kids see my weakness, they fed on it. Instead, I got stronger that month, in so many ways. My wavy silhouette stopped being something to obsessively hide and became part of my story.
Maybe God gives us beauty in our youth as a gift to help us appreciate what he can make. Then as it fades away into the inner beauty of a well-seasoned women, he always reminds us, “Daughter, your identity is in me. That body, that face, none of it is meant to last.”And so I wait, like the velveteen rabbit. Getting shabbier by the year but understanding the love of my God better and waiting until I become real.
If you dare, share your body flaw stories with me. Better yet, email me a picture. I promise I won’t notice your flaw as much as your bravery. Sharing just might make you feel freer.